How Skillshare Exploits Teachers and Why You’re Getting Pennies for Your Work

Teachers’ earnings dropped dramatically and everything now functions like a pyramid scheme.

After more than 3 years of using Skillshare as a secondary marketplace for my online courses, I decided to remove all of my content from the platform.

I already detailed my reasons for leaving in a previous article. You can read it here:

Why I’m Removing All Of My Courses From Skillshare

While my arguments revolved mainly around Skillshare’s poor management of educational content, which includes the censorship of relevant topics such as critical thinking, those are not the only concerning things happening there.

Skillshare’s War On Education And Critical Thinking

In fact, most of the recent changes made by the platform reveal the disturbing way in which Skillshare sees and treats the content creators that choose to license their content to this particular marketplace.

Over the last year, Skillshare became a toxic, exploitative environment, for both teachers and students.

You can read or watch opinions from both groups on YouTube, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

Teachers are getting paid less and less — recent changes seem to have triggered an average 30–70% pay cut —, their content is being rejected or removed for trivial reasons, vague terms introduced by Skillshare alone decide their next payment, among many other things.

Students most often complain about not getting enough value for their money and that Skillshare will do anything to avoid refunds, even when the context would allow it.

People are not happy.

And it’s getting worse with every new modification they implement.

Skillshare became a toxic environment that exploits both content creators (teachers) and subscribers (students).

While my main motivation for licensing content to Skillshare was not financial, one cannot pretend to not see the absolute joke the payment system enforced by the platform became over the last year alone.

I will list below the main ways in which I think Skillshare exploits its teachers, financially or otherwise.

These aspects alone should make one decide against joining the platform if their goal is to earn a decent amount of money for their work.

1. Teachers are paid from a fixed fund set by Skillshare at the beginning of each month. — This limits the earnings of teachers, even if the platform is doing incredibly well during that same time.

The Skillshare Teacher Fund is the pool of money that will be split among all content creators at the end of a month.

The problem with that is simple: the fund stays fixed even if the minutes watched by students on the platform increase. Teachers are paid per premium minutes watched. The price per minute will depend on the Teacher Fund and the overall minutes watched on the platform. Fewer minutes watched means a bigger price per minute, while more minutes watched means a smaller price per minute.

One could argue that this is a fair system since in the end, every teacher will receive the amount linked to the percentage of his/her minutes watched compared to the overall amount of minutes watched on the platform. But here’s the catch: if the platform would have an incredibly good month and say, students would watch three times as much content as usual and maybe join the platform via subscriptions at never-before-seen levels, teachers would see no increase in their earnings. They would be sharing the same money for that month, their earnings from this source are already capped.

One would have to rely on the fact that Skillshare will be fair and maybe increase the Fund for the next month, but even then, nothing guarantees you’ll have any engagement as a teacher on that specific month and that you will get your share then.

2. The new referral system is designed to scam most teachers who bring new users on the platform.

Skillshare used to pay $10 for every referral, no matter if this person stayed on the platform after their free trial or not.

Now teachers only get paid the referral commission if the individual ends up buying a subscription after the 30-day trial ends.

Here are the several problems that come with that:

  • The teacher will no longer get paid for the minutes watched by referrals in the trial period. 
  • The 30-day trial period is more than enough for an individual to watch a teacher’s entire catalog without paying a cent.
  • Skillshare gets the new user and the engagement but the teacher doesn’t get anything unless the person buys a subscription. The referral’s job is to bring more eyes and new users to the platform. Keeping these people there for a longer amount of time is the platform’s job. Skillshare should offer students enough valuable content to keep them engaged for months or years. That has nothing to do with the referrer.
  • Potential scenario: teacher brings a new student on the platform. This student watches and enjoys this teacher’s courses. They do not find new content to justify buying a subscription, so they cancel after 30 days. The teacher doesn’t get a cent. Fair?

The teacher ends up donating their work to both Skillshare and students, in more than one way. I will detail other methods below.

3. The 75-minute minimum rule is abusive in itself. — Teachers with a low amount of minutes watched each month basically donate all of their work to the platform.

The 75-minute minimum rule means that a teacher won’t get paid unless students watch his classes for at least this amount of time in a month.

Here’s the catch: The minutes watched by this teacher’s students do not roll over into the next month. Skillshare does not add up this teacher’s earned money until they reach a payment threshold. No. Skillshare resets progress each month.

Considering that Skillshare allows classes to be as short as 10 minutes — this means that each month, one would be donating their content, on average, to 7 students.

These are 7 students that pay Skillshare’s subscription since only minutes from paying subscribers count toward one’s earnings.

According to recent reports, more than 8,000 teachers license their content to Skillshare. That may mean up to 56,000 classes being watched for free on the platform each month. A gift teachers are forced to give Skillshare, on top of the 30-day free trials.

4. The price-per-minute dropped significantly and vague factors determine it each month.

The Teachers Fund is one thing that goes into determining the amount a teacher gets for each minute a subscribed student watched during a month.

Other factors include the type of subscription an individual purchased — this price is set exclusively by Skillshare and cannot be verified by teachers — , and course engagement — something no one knows how it translates into payments.

All of the changes triggered a price drop of more than 50% when it comes to watched minutes. The average rate was around 7 to 8 cents per minute, now it’s 4 cents or less.

Teachers have to rely on Skillshare’s fairness — which is hard to spot lately — and believe the stats they’re given at the end of the month.

5. Skillshare now works like a pyramid scheme. — Quality content is no longer its focus.

Skillshare moved from rewarding teachers for their quality content to rewarding teachers for bringing in new people to join the platform.

That’s a multi-level marketing scheme.

It is not what we signed up for.

Not to mention it will likely attract the very wrong crowd of “teachers” who will be more interested in making money as referrers than through sharing quality information.

BONUS: More things wrong with Skillshare:

  • The class publication process is a joke meant to frustrate and penalize teachers from the get-go. On any other platform where I posted my classes, the review process happens before a class is published. Not on Skillshare. There you publish a class, announce it to everyone in your mailing list, and then, some hours later, the so-called content moderator may close your class for reasons such as “The lecture titles are too vague”. And you have to have that class reopened through their team, which takes a while. Momentum gone. And you also get a strike, which can lead to your account being suspended. Cool, right?
  • They reject new classes for trivial reasons. As I said before, not only does Skillshare review classes after they allow you to publish and promote them, but the guidelines that can get a class rejected are also incredibly vague and stupid. “Vague lecture titles” — whatever that means, “Too static, the image needs to be changed every 2 minutes” — even when your lecture is a little over 2 minutes and only deals with one topic, and many other silly things that have nothing to do with a course’s quality.
  • They want to force class engagement even when none is required for a good assimilation of the information contained in that class. I told you before that Skillshare uses a course’s engagement signals to calculate the payments for the teacher. This will make some teachers nag students about posting their results or learning process. Publicly. It’s abusive toward everyone and completely meaningless when it comes to certain fields of study.
  • Skillshare makes no effort in promoting courses. I have no idea why they’re getting such a big portion of the payments anyway since they do not do anything else than host the courses and maintain the functionality of the platform. They only promote a select collection of classes, everything else is left to chance.
  • Skillshare piggybacks on teachers’ audiences. Since the platform puts almost no effort in promoting content, they rely on teachers to bring in their crowd. That’s why they love individuals who already have huge audiences — YouTubers, podcasters, authors, etc. They make those people create courses exclusively for Skillshare knowing that they will also promote them on their channels. Then, once those courses take off, as one would expect them to, Skillshare knows exactly where to focus whatever promotion money they have. Who needs a marketing team? Not Skillshare.

Many more things are wrong with Skillshare, in my opinion, but I will stop here for now.

I would not recommend anyone to use this platform anymore.

Neither teachers nor students get a decent return on their investment.

To me, all of this screams disrespect and a lack of managerial skills.

I am glad that I am leaving this platform. It won’t be missed.

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